Oscar

Expect theaters to be flooded with action-adventure films this month, from the anticipated release of “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s 3-D action-thriller “San Andreas.” But for the moviegoers who require more than an explosion scene and continuous combat, here’s a list of four movies released in May that promise neither.

“Aloha”

“Aloha” is the newest movie from esteemed director Cameron Crowe, creator of “Say Anything,” “Jerry McGuire” and “Almost Famous.” The romantic comedy follows a military contractor (Bradley Cooper) who gets assigned to return to Hawaii, forcing him to balance both his ex-wife (Rachel McAdams) and new co-worker and potential love interest (Emma Stone).

The all-star cast doesn’t stop there. Watch out for roles from Alec Baldwin, Danny McBride, John Krasinski and Bill Murray. A cast full of Oscar nominees combined with the beautiful backdrop of the Hawaiian countryside, “Aloha” is sure to fulfill your rom-com expectations.

National Release Date: May 29

Where: All major theaters

“Welcome To Me”

A comedy from breakout director Shira Piven, “Welcome to Me” features Kristen Wiig who plays an Oprah-obsessed woman with borderline personality disorder. The former “Saturday Night Live” star is supported by performances from James Marsden, Linda Cardellini and Wes Bentley.

With $86 million in her pocket, Wiig’s character buys her own talk show to discuss nothing in particular — much to the chagrin of the network. The film tackles the touchy topic of mental illness while managing to tease out laughs from the audience.

National Release Date: May 8

Where: All major theaters

“Every Secret Thing”

After two teen girls (Dakota Fanning and Danielle MacDonald) are released from a seven-year jail sentence for murdering a baby, another child goes missing from their town. An investigation is launched, headed by detective Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks), who is still haunted by the mysteries surrounding the original case that put two girls behind bars seven years ago.

Based on the best-selling novel by Laura Lippman, “Every Secret Thing” features a cast of strong female characters, including Diane Lane, the mother of one of the convicted girls, Oscar-nominated director Amy Berg and Oscar-winning actress-turned-producer Frances McDormand.

National Release Date: May 15

Where: On demand @ Vudu

“I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story”

“I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story” centers around the quirky man behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch from “Sesame Street”. The heartwarming documentary uses old footage from Spinney’s youth, marriage and early years with “Sesame Street” and current footage of Spinney, who is now 81 years old.

For former “Sesame Street” fans, the film is sure to bring back memories, unveiling the man inside the yellow bird costume.

National Release Date: May 6

Where: Violet Crown on May 13 @ 7:45 p.m.

The University’s golf team extended an invitation Monday to UT alumnus Matthew McConaughey, who won the 2014 Academy Award for Best Actor on Sunday evening, to join them in a round of golf. The invitation has not yet received a response from the actor.

The team asked the actor, “hey McConaughey – wanna play a round with us when you get back to Austin?” and posted a picture of McConaughey’s University headshot to the team’s Instagram. According to Ashley Cushman, spokeswoman for the department of intercollegiate athletics at UT, the picture was originally posted by the official University Instagram account, identifying McConaughey as a medalist at the 1993 intramural golf championship.

“[We] used a screenshot of the image inviting the UT alum to play a round with the Texas Longhorns when he’s back in Austin following his Academy Award press circuit,” Cushman said. “It is a valid and standing offer to our fellow Longhorn and the 2014 Academy Award winner.”

If McConaughey accepts the invitation, the team will get NCAA compliance from the University — following the team’s culture of compliance — before they would be able to hit the course. John Fields, head coach of the men’s golf team, said he does not know whether McConaughey will even see the invitation, due to his busy schedule.

“I’ve met him a few times before, and he’s a great guy and a good golfer,” Fields said. “We’re obviously building champions here … One of our past coaches, Harvey Penick, said in [his book], ‘If you want to be a good putter, you should go to dinner with good putters.’… I would imagine winning an Oscar is very similar to winning a national [golf] championship.”

Kalena Preus, economics freshman and member of the University’s golf team, said he believes golfing with McConaughey would be a great opportunity to get the team involved with past alumni, especially with someone of his “stature and savvy.”

“It would be just like any other round of golf,” Preus said. “Except for the fact that he’s an Ocsar winner and all around stud … No doubt, he will get back to us in the near future. There’s nothing better than a round of golf with the UT men’s golf team; I can assure you that.” 

2014 Oscar Awards recap

The 86th Academy Awards proceeded mostly according to expectation, but that expectation was such a pipe dream it seemed impossible that all of it could happen. “12 Years a Slave” won Best Picture, while “Gravity” won Best Director, a split many were predicting, but just as many thought could never actually happen. Distinguished alumnus Matthew McConaughey won the award for Best Actor, completing his McConaissance and erasing his rom-com laden past forever. John Ridley became the second black screenwriter to ever win an Oscar. It was a big night.

Host Ellen DeGeneres started things out with a bang. She was funny and down-to-earth but borrowed the snark of many of her Oscar-hosting predecessors to varying degrees of success. DeGeneres is known as one of the few truly nice comedians, but, last night, she was surprisingly cynical, comparing Liza Minnelli to a drag impersonator and mocking nominee June Squibb’s age. Mean doesn’t really work on Ellen, but she realized that quickly and turned it around, ordering pizza for audience members and taking the most popular selfie of all time. She knew when to be visible and when to let the show go. Even though the ceremony went well over its allotted time, it never felt like it dragged, and a big part of that is due to DeGeneres’s spot-on mix of energy and detachment.

“Gravity” was the big winner of the night, taking home seven of its 10 nominations, including Director, Cinematography, Score and most of the other technical categories. The biggest loser? “American Hustle,” which was nominated for 10 Oscars (as many as “Gravity”) and won zero. “Gravity”’s dominance cost many other films their chance at awards too, including “Captain Phillips” and “Nebraska,” both of which also went home empty-handed. “Gravity” director Alfonso Cuaron has long been an industry favorite with his unique visual style and created an entirely new way of filmmaking, making his expected victory a deserved one. He is also the first Latin filmmaker to win the Oscar for Directing.

The live performances, always a welcome diversion at the Academy Awards, were hit and miss. Pharrell performed a lively rendition of the admittedly repetitive “Happy” and even got some audience participation from nominated actresses Lupita Nyong’o, Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. U2 did a flawless acoustic rendition of their nominated song “Ordinary Love,” and Karen O and Ezra Koenig staged a charming version of “The Moon Song” from “Her.” But possibly the biggest surprise of the night was Idina Menzel’s disappointing performance of “Let it Go.” Easily the most anticipated of all the performers, Menzel fell flat, seeming terrified and unconfident. It actually made the song’s subsequent Oscar win seem awkward.

All the acting categories shook out exactly as they were predicted. Frontrunners Cate Blanchett and Jared Leto took home Best Actress for “Blue Jasmine” and Best Supporting Actor for “Dallas Buyers Club,” respectively. Slightly less assured pick Lupita Nyong’o won Supporting Actress for her work in “12 Years a Slave,” and McConaughey won Best Actor, also for “Dallas Buyers Club.” While all these actors were largely expected to win, it’s hard to argue with any of the choices. All delivered career best — or career launching — performances and charmed the pants off the awards circuit.

The biggest moment of the night was the final one, when Will Smith presented “12 Years a Slave” with the award for Best Picture. Steve McQueen was the first African-American to win an Oscar for producing and literally jumped for joy. “12 Year a Slave” only won three awards in total, but the fact that a grueling but stunning film about slavery won Best Picture, an award normally reserved for the most palatable, middle-of-the-road fare, made the supposedly most important awards in film seem relevant for the first time in quite a while.

Editor’s note: Two Life & Arts staff writers discuss big releases that are garnering buzz for the awards season. This week they focus on “12 Years A Slave.” 

Colin McLaughlin: “12 Years A Slave.” Wow. Just wow. I’ve been doing my best not to jinx the movie or send people to see it with ridiculously high expectations, but I find it hard to see how anyone can be disappointed by Steve McQueen’s brutal examination of slavery. “12 Years” has yet to see a wide release, and so “Gravity” still looks like the film to beat. I don’t want to be like some other unnamed Oscar bloggers and state that “12 Years a Slave” is, without any doubt, this year’s Best Picture winner. At this early point in the race I think the question about this film isn’t, “Will it win?” but, “What could prevent it from winning?” Thoughts?

Lee Henry: Well, a week ago I would have had an answer for you, and that answer would have been “Saving Mr. Banks.” It was supposed to be the “King’s Speech” equivalent for this year: feel-good period piece based on a true story and featuring several beloved actors exchanging witty repartee. From what I’ve read, the movie only delivers on the last item. While that’s certainly enough to propel Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks into individual nominations, it’s not going to be enough to compete with “Gravity” and “12 Years.” Both Hanks and Thompson are Academy darlings with two wins under their belts, and both are as charming as anyone else in the business. Thompson has a much tougher category than Hanks though, who is being predicted by several pundits as a frontrunner to win.

 

CM: From what I’ve heard, “Saving Mr. Banks’” best bet is a supporting actor win for Hanks as Walt Disney. Not only will the role likely gain him a second nomination for this year, it also poses a serious threat to Michael Fassbender, whose role as the sadistic slave owner in “12 Years a Slave” had many calling the supporting actor race early. But Fassbender is giving the Academy the cold shoulder, refusing to campaign for supporting actor. We may see Hanks take home his third Oscar this year. 

LH: Yeah, Fassbender had a nomination all but ensured and he’s ruined it by playing the “I’m an artist” card. He’s not thinking about how this move negatively affects “12 Years a Slave’s” momentum. Regardless of Fassbender’s anti-campaign strategy, I think he’ll still get in. The award for supporting actor seems to be becoming a three-man race between Fassbender, Hanks and Jared Leto for “Dallas Buyers Club.” We both saw “Dallas Buyers Club” over the weekend, and I think we can agree that his work as a male-to-female transgender HIV-positive drug addict is stellar. Now this may sound like an over-the-top made-for-Oscar role, but Leto owns it and creates a fully developed, tragically funny character. 

 

CM: I see Leto as the real potential upset in the supporting actor category. He’s never been nominated and he’s not much of a household name, but he’s delivered a solid body of work over the last decade in movies like “Requiem for a Dream” and “Lord of War.” With Fassbender’s status now up in the air, this year’s supporting actor race could become a battle between young first-time nominee Leto and two-time winning legend Hanks. The most exciting races in recent years have been defined by the old versus the new. 

LH: Agreed. Leto has an uphill battle ahead of him though. The Academy has rewarded women playing female-to-male transgender characters multiple times, most notably Hilary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry,” but that’s never gone the other way. That’s a big hurdle for Leto to jump and he may not have the name recognition or actor cred. It all depends on how Focus markets him and his co-star, the equally awesome Matthew McConaughey. 

 

CM: McConaughey’s physical transformation alone was impressive. But, he radically alters his body and still manages to deliver the best performance of his career. He’s completely overhauled his career in the last 18 months with strong, varied performances in “Mud,” “Bernie” and “Killer Joe,” and “Dallas Buyers Club” could be one that sends him home with the Oscar.

Director/producer Ben Affleck accepts the award for best picture for "Argo" during theOscars at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday Feb. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Photo Credit: AP Exchange | Daily Texan Staff

This live blog was written during the 2013 Academy Awards.  It is a live, slightly snarky feed of everything that happened and did not happen at this year's Academy Awards. 

11:01 In the most annoying way possible, the 2013 Academy Awards end with the ever grating Kristin Chenoweth and Seth MacFarlane. They sing some horrible song which reminds us only of how horrible things were before they started awarding the good statues. 

10:54 The Oscar for BEST MOTION PICTURE is awarded to ARGO presented by Michelle Obama. These producers are all strange men who don't know where to stand. Oh, except best beard George Clooney who's looking great.  Ben also has a beard. He could be nominated. He makes Jennifer Garner cry, and all of us cry, and even himself cry a little. 

10:52 Jack Nicholson announces Michelle Obama on screen from the White House. Rocking her bangs and a beautiful silver dress, Michelle deserves this honor. She should probably win. She plugs how important arts are to our country, and she is right.

10:45 Meryl Streep arrives in a very sparkly dress to present the award for BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE. The Oscar goes to Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln over Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook, Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables, Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, Denzel Washington in Flight.  He is the first actor to win three Oscars in the BEST ACTOR category. There is a standing ovation, and he looks so happy he almost looks miserable. Unlike our girl Lawrence, Day Lewis has his speech together. He thanks Abraham Lincoln.

10:40 The Oscar for BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE goes to Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook over Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty, Emmanuelle Rivera for Amour, Quvenzhane Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Naomi Watts for the Impossible. She almost falls in her hurry up the stairs and receives a standing ovation. "This is nuts," she says, and nuts it is. Every Oscar pool is ruined by this point. Jennifer Larence looks incredible, Bradley Cooper looks so proud. Lawrence is totally scattered and has no speech. She was obviously not expecting that. 

10:32 Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas arrive to present the Oscar for BEST DIRECTOR to Ang Lee for LIFE OF PI for their FOURTH Oscar of the night. Lee thanks the movie god and thanks the 3,000 people who worked with him on Life of Pi. 

10:26 BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY is awarded to Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained. Tarantino is a total bozo. He's rambling about character choosing, and calling himself awesome for his casting choices. He "peace out"s the audience.

10:22 Seth. Please stop. Dustin Hoffman and Charlize Theron arrive with a massive height disparity to present the award for BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY goes to Argo by Chris Terrio.  He apparently sprinted to the stage. What is this bad situation? Can you tell us that story? 

10:08 The cast of Chicago appears on stage to present the Oscar for BEST MOVIE SCORE to Life of Pi. Richard Gere makes a joke. It's funnier than anything MacFarland has said. Which is to say, marginally funny. Life of Pi is sweeping up Oscars. Norah Jones arrives on stage she looks nothing like herself. Is she even famous anymore? The Oscar for BEST ORIGINAL SONG goes to Skyfall by Adele who apparently has a last name. It is her first Academy Award. She cries immediately. Some other bro is there. He did something. He does not cry. 

10:01 Another not Beyonce arrives, this time in the form of Barbara Streisand. She receives a standing ovation. Take that Adele.

9:57 Beard number 1 aka George Clooney arrives for "In Memoriam." He says we could dedicate an entire show to it, you know, a show that NO ONE would watch. 

9:50 Selma Hayek looks like she tried to dress up as Cleopatra for a sorority Halloween party. They recap some Governor's Awards, which goes to people who love movies and have done great things for film. No one explains why they are called "Governor's."

9:48 Daniel Radcliffe and Kristen Stewart arrive on stage. Fittingly, the Harry Potter music plays. Stewart looks like she walked through some brush backstage and got her hair sucked into a whirlpool. They present the Oscar for PRODUCTION DESIGN to Lincoln. Christoph returns to the screen from earlier, and we still love him. 

9:43 Nicole Kidman shows us the next three Best Picture nominees with Silver Lining Playbook, Django Unchained, and Amour. Despite Argo's editing win and thus my prediction for best picture, Silver Lining Playbook was by far my favorite of the nominations. 

9:35 Jennifer Lawrence introduces Adele to sing "Skyfall." Adele looks like the sky fell onto her dress. There is no standing ovation for Adele. She is the first singing number to not receive one. The COLD SHOULDER award goes to Adele.

9:32 Sandra Bullock presents the award for FILM EDITING goes to William Goldenberg for Argo

9:29 The Academy Preseident takes the stage and explains a future Oscar museum. It will be the "first of it's kind." It sounds like a museum. REPRESENT. Jennifer Brofer of UT AUSTIN is on the stage!

9:23 Anne Hathaway thanks everyone and bows to her competitors. She is--as she has been since her transformation into Princess Mia--eloquent, elegent, and beautiful. She thanks her husband, who is teary. Who knew Anne Hathaway had a husband!? 

9:20 MacFarlane tries to convince us the Von Trapps are coming. His jokes are all bad. I am not laughing. Christopher Plummer joins us on stage. People laugh at his jokes. He says he has 30 films coming and we are ready for all of them. He presents the Oscar for BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE. It goes to Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables over Amy Adams for the Master, Sally Field for Lincoln, Helen Hunt for The Sessions, and Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook. 

9:17 The JAWS wrap it up music is old. 

9:09 Facial hair is really back. Everyone is bearded. Beards, beards, beards, beards, beards. There is some learning going on now which is kind of a bummer, but not as much of a bummer as MacFarlane. Mark Wahlberg comes to the stage with some bear that was in a movie that no one saw. The Oscar for BEST SOUND MIXING goes to Les Miserables. The Oscar for SOUND EDITING  is a tie. WHAT? Is this soccer!? This is art. Can't we just be judgement about these subjective things.  The first goes to Zero Dark Thirty and the second goes to Skyfall.

9:01 The musical tribute moves to Les Mis. Hugh Jackman's voice is still not good enough for this role. Also, facial hair, facial hair everywhere. Anne Hathaway is beautiful. Her lip quivers with "One Day More." Samantha Barkman looks like she could be the American Kate Middleton. The entire cast of Les Mis is on stage, and they look just as upset as they did in the movie. French flags drop from the ceiling. They receive the second standing ovation of the night. 

9:00 Still "not Beyonce" continues to sing. Girl's got pipes, but no Blue Ivy. 

8:53 John Travolta lists 1,000 names for a tribute to great musicals. He mispronounces Catherine Zeta Jones's name, but it doesn't matter because she's on stage, and she looks awesome.  No one knows why someone who is NOT BEYONCE is singing the Dreamgirls tribute. Where is Beyonce? Where is she? 

8:49 Seth MacFarlane compares the Oscars to church, which is maybe possible since he's offending everyone. Jennifer Garner is wearing all the diamonds. BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM goes to AMOUR which is unsurprising because, I don't know, they're nominated for best picture. He thanks his wife and its adorable. 

8:42 Ben Affleck is bringing facial hair back. The Oscar for BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE goes to Searching for Sugarman by two men whose names were not on the screen for long enough for me to figure out how to spell them. The JAWS theme song returns, and they leave. 

8:37 Liam Neeson gives us three more previews for best picture with Argo,  Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty. Liam Neeson could have probably also played Lincoln. 

8:32 Kerry Washington and Jamie Foxx arrive to present BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM to Curfew by Sean Christensen. He notes his short time window, salutes someone, thanks his "devishly handsom father," and leaves. The Oscar for BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT goes to Inocente by Shaun Fine and Andrea Nix Fine. They talk about supporting the arts and the music plays even though Amy Adams eyes are welling and we all love her so much. 

8:21 Hallie Berry appears to celebrate the 50th anniversary of James Bond in motion pictures. There is, of course, a play by play of Bond girls in bikinis, some explosions, some car chases, and more Bond girls. Some lady appears dressed like an Oscar statue to sing about Bond. My guess is that this is about the time for Meryl Streep to arrive late with Starbucks in hand during the standing ovation.

8:16  Seth MacFarlane looks like a longer-haired Ken doll, and has about the same sense of humor. Channing Tatum and Jennifer Aniston arrive on stage, thank god. No one looks good in this lighting. The Oscar for ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN goes to Jaqueline Duran for Anna Karenina.  Who is all of our hero since she also did Atonement and Pride and Predjudice. The Oscar for ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP AND HAIR STYLING goes to Lisa Westcott and Julie Darnell for their face dirt application in  Les Miserables. One of them appears to be wearing pink jeans. Who doesn't know Oscar dress code!? 

8:09 The award for ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS, which is maybe the same award as cinematography with totally different nominees(?), goes to Life of Pi again, because it was beautiful. The first of these award winers tries to make a joke about meta-reality, literally no one laughs.  He keeps talking over increadibly loud "wrap it up music" because despite the Oscar's faking love for visual effects, they really don't care. 

8:06 Samuel L. Jackson is in a red velvet blazer. The Avengers present the award for ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY, aka pretty movie award, to Claudio Miranda for Life of Pi. He is rambling about how much he loves his movie and getting teary. "Oh my god, I can't even speak," he says, which is kind of true.  

8:00 Reese Witherspoon joins us with perfect hair waves. She talks about the Best Picture Nominees. We see previews for Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Beasts of the Southern Wild. MacFarlane calls Jennifer Lawrence old, and makes jokes on the expense of the nine year old.  He is the worst, but he welcomes six of the Avengers, which we like--mostly because he's leaving. 

7:55 Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy join us with the gold envelope for some jokes. The award for BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM goes to "Paperman" by John Kahrs. It is his first Academy Award and nomination. His speech is short and sweet, he's no Christopher Waltz. The BEST ANIMATED FILM award goes to Brave  Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman. Andrews has on a kilt, which no one "just happens to be wearing." 

7:47 We finally get Octavia Spencer with a gold envelope for ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE. And the Oscar goes to Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained. He bows to his competitors and tears up in his speech behind his thick rimmed black glasses. He looks genuinely surprised, and gives an inspiring speech.   Everyone falls in love with Christoph Waltz.

7:45 This intro is still going. It shouldn't be.

7:38 There is an inappropriate "fake" musical number titled "We saw your boobs." This intro is rough. MacFarlane asks how to fix this and the answer is hidden from everyone. He introduces Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron to dance to "The Way You Look Tonight."  Channing Tatum can dance, but MacFarlane still can't sing.  He welcomes Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt to dance and sing with him. I'm ignoring everyone but Gordon-Levitt.

7:30 We are welcomed to the Oscars by our host Seth MacFarlane. For the first time, the Oscars has a theme "music in films." Probably because Adele is here. MacFarlane makes a couple of jokes that do actually seem funny, but he introduces the Oscars with some sort of roll call that allows him to make these jokes. He makes a slavery joke. Is this okay? He moves on to Django Unchained and also makes a Chris Brown Rihanna reference. A screen descends behind him with Star Trek's Captain Kirk to stop him from "destroying the Academy Awards." Kirk asks "why can't Tina and Amy host everything?" which is really all any of us want. 

7:22 Every red carpet host is incredibly awkward. At the five minute mark we are inside some producing truck where everyone looks awkward. Queen Latifah manages to interact with them like they are normal, and it is an incredibly feat of acting on her part. They are now sitting down, and the real show will start soon. Chenoweth brings up Texas football, and it's horrible. 

7:15 Jamie Foxx really embarrasses his 19 year old college daughter who looks very uncomfortable and unhappy. She looks like someone stole her smile while her father hits on the interviewer. The camera cuts away from some of the most brilliant television drama the Oscars has seen thus far to visit Daniel Day Lewis who is a snooze in comparison.

7:12 Anne Hathaway gives us a preview that the cast will be performing. Kristin Chenoweth's voice still feels like a cheese grater. Especially as she tells Hathaway akwardly that "her hair is growing back nicely." There is a "magic" box they are trying to get us behind. Anne Hathaway guesses that Dorothy's slippers are in there, and people say bad things about the Smithsonian and I cry. 

7:05 George Clooney is unamused with everyone's antics because he's been in Berlin. He promises to drink and makes snarky faces at the hosts, but looks very very nice in his tux.  When Sandra Bullock is interviewed, there are a lot of weird things going on with the sound including Kristin Chenoweth's weird mousy voice. 

7:01 Jennifer Anniston calls the Oscars, "ya know, a magical piece of time," but does say that she will only be attending only one party in her red Valentino dress. The only important people thus far are named Jennifer. The Garner Jennifer claims that she's "just a puddle," which is kind of what the back of her purple dress looks like.   

6:55 Best Dressed has gone to Jennifer Lawrence. No one is quite sure who decided this. Amy Adams and Anne Hathaway were given honorable mentions. 

Actress Anne Hathaway portrays Fantine, a struggling, sickly mother forced into prostitution in 1800s Paris, in a scene from the screen adaptation of “Les Miserables.” Hathaway is nominated for an Academy Award for supporting actress for “Les Miserables.” Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

With the Oscars coming up this weekend, the only thing more important than seeing all the nominated films is proving to your friends that you know more than they do. Oscar pools are usually half-informed guesses mixed with eeny-meeny-miny-mo decisions on the more obscure categories, and we’ve put together a few tips to help you get ahead in this year’s Oscar season.

YOUR OPINION DOESN’T MATTER

Oscar is a fickle beast, and no matter what you think should win a specific category, the odds of the Academy matching your line of thinking are slim to none. Sure, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” was a great, borderline-magical film, but it hasn’t got a prayer for Best Picture. And we’d all love to see Wes Anderson win his first Oscar for “Moonrise Kingdom,” but the competition is too stiff for him to stand a chance.

HATHAWAY AND DAY-LEWIS WILL NOT LOSE

Both of these actors have had their respective awards staked out for months now. Daniel Day-Lewis has massive momentum behind him, and he’s steamrollered the competition. Despite an incredibly competitive year in the Best Actor category, Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Lincoln was transformative in a way that the Academy membership is sure to recognize. Meanwhile, Anne Hathaway’s performance in “Les Miserables” — a title which shockingly doesn’t refer to the people sitting through it — practically has Oscar carved into it. Her showstopping rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” was a rare moment of emotional devastation in a film that sputtered more often than not, and Hathaway’s first Oscar, for Best Supporting Actress, will be well earned.

ONE OF THE BIG PLAYERS IS GOING HOME EMPTY-HANDED

Silver Linings Playbook,” “Argo,” “Lincoln,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Life of Pi,” “Amour” and “Django Unchained” are the films to beat at this year’s ceremony, and surely one of them will go unrecognized. Will it be the sterile and painful “Amour?" Not likely, since the film is getting a big push in Best Actress and seems to have Best Foreign Film locked down. “Silver Linings Playbook” is too well liked to not win something, and “Life of Pi” has too many nominations. “Lincoln” and “Argo” are basically unstoppable thanks to the momentum of Oscar season, even if one of them is destined to underperform. My money is on “Zero Dark Thirty.” After the political backlash resulting from its depiction of torture, the journalistic thriller has been struggling, and a combination of Kathryn Bigelow’s Best Director snub, Jessica Chastain’s faltering Best Actress campaign and the crowded Best Original Screenplay category, the film is likely to end up this season’s sacrificial lamb.

IF THEY DESERVE IT, THEY PROBABLY ALREADY LOST

It’s rare that the best film nominated in any given category actually wins, and there are sure to be few exceptions to that rule this year. Roger Deakins made, bar none, the year’s most beautifully photographed film with “Skyfall,” but the Bond thriller is almost sure to lose in the Best Cinematography category. Joaquin Phoenix gave a performance for the ages in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” but in a Best Actor category where each contender could win in a lesser year, his nomination is the victory.

DON’T SPLIT ON SOUND AWARDS

The Academy usually awards Best Sound Mixing and Editing to the same films, and the last time they varied was in 2008, when “The Dark Knight” and “Slumdog Millionaire” split the vote. In an Oscar pool, victory can come down to one or two awards, and it sure would be a shame to be the guy who thought the Academy would deviate from pattern here. 

While I can’t claim to be an Oscar expert, especially in a year as unpredictable as this one, these picks should help you at least get a leg up in your Oscar pool, if not claim total victory. And if I’m totally wrong on all counts, at least that means we’ll be watching one of the most gonzo insane Oscar telecasts ever, and the entertainment value alone will make the loss go down easier.

Published on February 22, 2013 as "What to expect from the Oscars". 

Professor Elizabeth Richmond-Garza presents her analysis of Oscar Wilde during a roundtable discussion of the Harry Ransom Center’s Oscar Wilde archive Tuesday afternoon. A second prequel to “The Oscar Wilde Archive” will be open to the public on March 19.

Photo Credit: Becca Gamache | Daily Texan Staff

A roundtable discussion about Oscar Wilde’s life and work was held Tuesday at the Harry Ransom Center, which houses the Wilde archives. The event was hosted by the Ethnic and Third-World specialization of the graduate program at the Department of English.

The talk, “The Oscar Wilde Archive,” was held in preparation for the Ethnic and Third-World specialization’s 12th Annual Sequels Symposium, a yearly conference that centers on the recent work of UT alumni and showcases the work of the program’s current graduate students. “The Oscar Wilde Archive” is one of two Spring Prequels — smaller events that preview the coming Symposium’s topic matter through exploratory discussion. The second Prequel, open to the public, will be March 19.

The afternoon’s talk covered topics like Wilde’s human rights efforts and his legacy. English and comparative literature associate professor Elizabeth Richmond-Garza discussed the links between Wilde’s translations and queer theory. Richmond-Garza said speculation over Wilde’s sexuality arose as scholars translated his works. She also provided the original manuscript of “Salome,” a play by Wilde, for viewing. 

Ransom Center digital archivist Gabriela Redwine talked about Wilde’s correspondence with his niece and nephew.

“I liked how they gave views of Wilde that I haven’t seen analyzed before,” English junior Carmen Hargis-Villanuev said. “You wouldn’t think you could see him in a whole new way just through studying his niece.”

The discussion was led by English Department Chair Elizabeth Cullingford.

“Since the presiding genius of today’s talk is Oscar Wilde, I think he should provide our epigraph,” Cullingford said. “He said, ‘There is only one thing in the world that is worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.’” 

This year’s symposium will feature UT graduate Ellen Crowell, whose latest book, “Oscar Wilde’s Body,” examines the writer in the literary and cultural landscapes of early modernism. 

English senior Cynthia Brzostowski said the series is beneficial because it shows what English scholars can do following graduation.

“It’s always motivating to see a liberal arts degree in action,” she said. “Seeing what professionals in the field study, how they prepare and then in what forum they present their research is really interesting.”

Associate English professor Neville Hoad said it is intimidating to delve into the life and work of Wilde, who has been called the leader of the Aesthetic Movement.

“In discussing Wilde you run the risk of being upstaged by your subject’s own material,” he said. “Which is a risk I’m honored to take.”

Denis Lavant in the most repulsive of a whopping dozen roles he plays in Leos Carax’s visionary “Holy Motors" (Photo courtesy of Indomina Releasing).

Surrealism is usually a cinematic touch that rubs me the wrong way; something about the level of self-indulgence and intentional audience disconnect is simply grating. But Leos Carax’s “Holy Motors,” a squirmy conceptual oddity, is the exception to that rule, a strangely touching but elusive film that works entirely because of its stylistic audacity.

Denis Lavant gives a dazzling performance as Oscar, a man who spends his days in a limo, driving between appointments that require him to slip in and out of different lives at a moment’s notice. Lavant plays a stunning 11 roles, each of them distinct in appearance and demeanor. It is fascinating to watch Lavant physically and emotionally transform himself throughout the film, going from a distant father and a murderous gangster to a flower-devouring troll with impressive ease.

Other actors come and go based on which scenario Oscar is in, and the only constant is Edith Scob, who does warm work as Oscar’s driver. Also worth mentioning is a lovely interlude toward the end of the film where Oscar interacts with a woman played by Kylie Minogue, who gives an unexpectedly tender performance, tinged with regret. Once it becomes clear why Carax chose Minogue for the small role, it makes for one of the boldest moments in “Holy Motors.”

Director Carax brings astounding amounts of creativity to “Holy Motors,” and each of the different scenarios Oscar finds himself in stands out, if not in concept then in execution. A moment in which he works in a motion capture studio is acrobatic and erotic, unabashedly strange, and one of the early scenarios where Oscar transforms into a repugnant sewer creature to kidnap a model (Eva Mendes) is a burst of slimy creativity. A mid-film musical number is also an absolute blast, a great shot to the heart to energize audiences for the rest of the film. The film’s final scene, which doesn’t feature a single human character, is a surreal little punch line.

“Holy Motors” certainly won’t be a film that everyone enjoys, and even fewer will understand it. There are an endless number of ways to interpret many of the film’s flourishes. It’s hard not to see a parallel between the way Oscar experiences the key moments in so many different lives and the very art of cinematic acting, a profession in which reality becomes a lie agreed upon by all its participants. No matter how you read it, “Holy Motors” is never boring, driven by Lavant’s excellent performance and the lush, well-rounded direction from Carax, making it one of the most unique — and downright excellent — films of the year.

“Holy Motors” opens this weekend at the South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse.

Printed on Friday, December 6, 2012 as: Surrealist flick sure to satisfy

The Record

Dr. Garza and Dr. Richmond Garza read in the company of their favorite literary and film characters. From left to right: Cesare from “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” Holly Golightly from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan from “The Great Gatsby,” and Basil Howard, Dorian Gray and Lord Henry from “The Picture of Dorian Gray”.

Photo Credit: Andrea Macias-Jimenez | Daily Texan Staff

“The Record” is a bi-weekly segment dedicated to featuring the many people and traditions that make the University of Texas such a unique place. For our third issue, we talk to Dr. Elizabeth Richmond-Garza and Dr. Thomas Jesus Garza about Oscar Wilde, vampires and bad book endings.

1) Dr. Garza and Dr. Richmond-Garza, tell us about your specific field of study.
 RG: My field is comparative literature, where scholars and students work in three or more languages and use juxtapositions across linguistic and cultural lines to address aesthetic, cultural and ideological concerns. My specific interests are Orientalism, Cleopatra, Oscar Wilde, European drama, the Gothic and literary theory. I teach theater, aesthetics and the fine arts and work actively in eight foreign languages.
G: My area is Russian language and culture. I work on ways and materials to teach Russian as effectively and efficiently as possible, and I work a great deal in cultural studies, mostly Russian, and that research is directly reflected in the courses I teach.

2) How does that fit into your life in Austin? Have you found a community that shares these interests with you?
RG: Austin has a quite accomplished regional theater scene and is itself multilingual and multicultural. Working with local theater groups and with colleagues and groups across the UT campus has been very rewarding indeed.
G: There’s actually a fairly robust Russian community in Austin and a much larger one in Houston.


3) What has been the topic within your field of study that you have found most fascinating? Why?
RG: I am especially interested in resonances between English, French, Russian and Austrian culture around the year 1900 and our present day. The anxieties about gender and sexuality, immigration and identity, etc., that haunted the late 19th century seem to recur today. Oscar Wilde’s works and life are at the center of my work.
G: The work on vampires has been the most interesting, as it allowed me to work comparatively — something my wife, Elizabeth, inspired — and in a number of different media and contribute to some interesting projects, like “30 Days of Night,” “True Blood“ and “Vampire Secrets” on the History Channel.

4) What made you decide to look into these topics?
RG: I am interested in what attracts us to things that are frightening or disturbing but at the same time appealing. These works blur fixed categories and produce the effect of the uncanny. Analyzing what frightens but also attracts us offers important insights into our cultural moment and into past moments that share our concerns.
G: My interest in Russian/Russia goes back to my freshman year at Haverford College, when I chose the language on a whim and wound up majoring in it. Vampires grew out of a childhood fascination that became an avocation when I visited Dracula’s domain in Transylvania in 1988.

5) If you were to tell your students what your life as an academic is like in three words, what would they be?
RG: Cosmopolitan, intellectual, high-energy.
G: No dull days.

6) Speaking of your students, do you find it easy to inspire them?
RG: The materials I teach tend to spark a strong response from students. Their striking impact is one of the reasons I select them. Only students can inspire themselves, but instructors can model enthusiasm, respect and intellectual curiosity. I am constantly impressed by how infectious enthusiasm is, especially when students challenge themselves to do their own best work on projects that they tailor to their personal interests.
G: To teach them, yes; to inspire them, no, that is not so easy. Inspiration doesn’t simply well up and become passion. There’s a lot of groundwork to lay out in order to inspire, and sometimes one or even two semesters is not enough time. But it does happen from time to time, and those are some of the best experiences I’ve had as a faculty member.

7) What has been the most memorable moment you have had as a professor at UT?
RG: Among the many remarkable moments I have had was meeting a freshman seminar less than two hours after the 9/11 attack. I decided to come to campus to meet the class. Every student showed up that day, and all had heard about the events. The humane and mature way in which a group of first-year students responded to that horror without judging or conjecturing epitomized what is best about our students.
G: Personally, that would be when I met Elizabeth in the basement of Calhoun in 1991. Professionally, it was when my chairperson told me that I had received tenure.

8) Students tend to see only the academic side of their professors. Is there any part of your personality that your students would be surprised by?
RG: Of course if you teach things like “Dracula” and “Inception,” then there is quite an overlap between the personal and the professional. I imagine that they know I go to the theater and to musical performances all the time. I do not know whether my students would be surprised by quite how noisy my taste in music is, or quite how much I like to cook for friends, family and students.
G: There’s not too much of my personality that students don’t see in most of my classes. But some students might be surprised to know that I played Dr. Frank-N-Furter in a 1975 high school production of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

9) And speaking of hobbies, what do you like to do in your spare time?
RG: Maybe see above, and also, which would not surprise my students, playing with my cats.
G: Travel, watch movies, explore new places to eat and drink.

10)  If you could rewrite any one scene and/or chapter in any book already written, would you? If so, what would that be?

RG: Oscar Wilde wrote a letter to his friend, Lord Alfred Douglas, over the course of his time in prison serving a harsh sentence for “gross indecency.” “De Profundis” is a poignant, self-indulgent and beautiful letter about sorrow and suffering. I wish that Wilde had taken the advice of friends and left London for France. Had he done that, we would still have “De Profundis,” I think, but in a different form. He would have lived to see the first World War, and I have always wanted to know what he would have said about that moment of global suffering.
G: I can’t imagine tampering with someone else’s finished literary work. If I thought I could do better or different, then I would write my own.

11) Is there an ending to a book that you absolutely disapprove of? How would you fix it?
RG: There are not endings of which I disapprove, but there are some that are unbearable. Shakespeare’s “King Lear” ends with all the characters who survive to the finale recognizing their errors and even learning the need to care for one another. They are never given the chance to act upon that insight. It is an ending that opens the abyss of postmodernism for me and for so many great writers.
G: I couldn’t imagine changing what [an author] had already created. I do admit, though, that Dostoevsky’s epilogue to “Crime and Punishment,” which results in Raskolnikov finding religion, smacks of capitulation to a government editor/censor.

12) Do you feel like you live a life similar to an already-existent literary character?
RG: I would like to live like one of Oscar Wilde’s dandies, like Lord Henry or, even more, Lord Goring from his play, “An Ideal Husband”: witty and ultimately forgiving of their failings and those of others. I sometimes fear that I am more like Josef, who is caught in a maze-like world in Kafka’s “The Trial.” This may just be the midterm-timing of your question speaking!
G: I certainly feel as though I have a number of moments like Arthur Dent from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” when I have no control of the chaos around me, but mostly I prefer to think that I’m writing my own character.

13)  Who are your literary alter egos?
RG: Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, Rainer Maria Rilke, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Boris Akunin.
G: I’d have to say that I’m partial to Woland, the devil figure in Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita.”

14)  Dr. Richmond-Garza and Dr. Garza, if you were to have tea with Oscar Wilde and Vladimir Vysotsky, respectively, what is the very first thing you would say to them?
RG:
I wish that the wallpaper had gone instead.
G: Volodya, have some “tea,” and then sing something!

15) What would be your parting words to them?
RG: What is your Twitter name?
G: Volodya, before you go, sing one more.

16)  If you could choose to live the life of a literary character, who would that be?
RG: Lord Goring.
G: He’s not quite a literary character, but I would love to be Dr. Who, maybe just for a while.

17) What research/projects are you currently working on?
RG: I am currently finishing a study of decadent culture at the end of the 19th century. I have a smaller essay on the queer translation theory, which will appear in the spring, and another essay on dandyism and detective stories I am working on for next summer.
G: I’m finishing a book on the similar ways that masculinity is portrayed in popular culture in Russia and Mexico from the 1990s to the 2000s.

18) Lastly, if you had an alternate profession, what would that be?
RG: I served for nine years as the CAO/CFO of the learned society in my field, the American Comparative Literature Association. If I were not able to be part of the academy as a professor, I would want to work for a not-for-profit humanities advocacy group.
G: If I hadn’t wanted to be able to eat and live in place with walls, I would have tried to become a stage actor.

Gaffer: Aaron Berecka
Make-Up Artist: Thumper Gosney

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s culture minister said Monday that his country will boycott the 2013 Oscars in the wake of the anti-Islam video made in the United States that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad.

An Iranian film won an Oscar in February, but Mohammed Hosseini said the Islamic Republic would not field an entry for next year’s awards due to the video he dubbed “an intolerable insult to the Prophet of Islam,” the semiofficial ISNA news agency reported. Hosseini urged other Islamic countries to also boycott and confirmed that the committee in charge of selecting Iran’s entry has already picked “Ye Habbeh Ghand,”  to compete for best foreign film.